Thursday, July 26, 2007

Here Is Your Appraisal

Russell writes quite movingly in Campaign today about how wounded he was by an appraisal.

The problem seems to be that it was very detailed. So instead of general comments about 'areas to improve on', he was told specific things like that he was "an arse" (joke I'm sure). Worse still, he was able to work out who had said what.

Shortly after this appraisal, he quit.

Now, Russell would be the first to admit he is a gentle, sensitive soul.

But even in the dog-eats-other-dog-for-lunch-on-expenses world of advertising, I don't think he's alone.

An account handler of my acquaintance was in tears after her appraisal. Although it was 95% positive, she found herself focusing exclusively on those one or two negative comments. Maybe that's human nature.

But it leads me to wonder... are appraisals a good thing, or are they actually the work of the devil?

Are they ever inspiring, or are they always demotivating?

Is it better for managers to drop little comments here and there throughout the year, rather than deploy the 'shock and awe' of an annual 360?

And is it better to live in ignorance? In other words, if you are an arse, is it better to be unaware of that fact? After all, arse-itude is probably something that you can't change anyway.


Anonymous said...

I'm just reviewing my team at the moment. They're useful, but only if the conversation is two-way. You need to let them talk about the good and bad bits of the previous quarter (or whatever) and discuss how they can be improved – and how you can help them to do that. That's where you get to tell them what you want them to improve on 'going forward'. And plainly, Russell isn't and arse, but if you feel you can tell someone that they are in a review, then you're probably not too upset when they quit...

Anonymous said...

Surely it is better to update people all year so that the gap between an employees perception of performance and reality is kept as small as possible.

That said there is something important about the annual set piece. It focuses the manager on the employee over a period of time and forces them to dedicate time to their career progression. And it offers the opportunity to formally recognise someone who is outstanding.

The ony pain with appraisals is how long they take to complete while doing the rest of your job.

Joker said...

I'm not too familiar with appraisals, but truth be told, it's the same as a family intervention or a circle of trust exercise. Yes it is human nature to focus on the negative because in retrospect, negative aspects always stand out more than positive ones. Case in point, will you remember the sixteen months of smooth sailing from an employee who excelled in his or her job, or will you focus on that time Charles put the N after the U in the "make the cut" slogan, the time Brett put four sugars in the diabetic clients coffee or the time Mary sent the fart on fire video to the Christian client? Negativity will always outweigh the positive because we are all unforgiving to a large degree and employees feeling the need to feel like an essential part of the machine, focus on the negative to show what happens when they screw up and that they need to always do well for the machine to flow nicely. Who knows, maybe I'm just in the commenting mood but it might make some sense.

cheers though.